Report: UK school budget cuts leave IT class standards lagging

With all this talk of smartphones, smart cities and smart homes it is a wonder that the environments that are meant to nurture our brightest sparks – our children's classrooms – are losing out on the latest technologies.

According to a report from Casio Projectors, the recent budget freeze on school IT funding means that over half a million UK pupils are now working with outdated classroom audio visual (AV) and IT technology.

Titled "The state of UK schools: IT equipment, Budget Cuts and the role of Ofsted", the report questioned over 100 educational IT buyers across Britain. It found that over 1,700 schools have failed to modernise any of their AV equipment because they simply don't have the money.

Consequently, over half a million pupils are being taught with antiquated equipment that hasn't been updated since 2008.

It's a concerning statistic when we consider that the vast majority of teaching in schools now takes place through the means of a projected powerpoint presentation. Indeed, anyone who's been part of a lesson in the last ten years will doubtless have witnessed the breakdown of a class after a piece of AV equipment failed, taking the teacher's entire lesson plan with it. Outdated equipment increases the likelihood of technical issues, and can seriously impact the learning of students when their teachers are forced to abandon the valuable content they had prepared.

The report also found that when an educational institution does decide to invest in new technology, wrestling with cuts in excess of 15 per cent means that the majority of schools buy in cheaper devices that are often poorer quality, costing the schools more in upkeep and maintenance on a long-term basis.

ITProPortal met with Casio at the BETT conference in London yesterday to talk through some of the options schools have. According to Phil Clark, Head of Projectors at Casio, spend on AV equipment is predicted to rise in 2014-15 as schools realise the educational benefits of investing in a long term audio visual solution for the class room.

"Audio visual technology has always been a big boy's brigade with big, well established companies sticking with the same old products and refusing to innovate," he told us. "Now times are changing and schools need to really look at the incredible technologies available to them."

ITProPortal got to witness first-hand one such technology at the show, the new Casio lamp-free ultra-short throw projector. The UST model has a laser and LED Hybrid light source, removing the need for harmful mercury lamps traditionally used in classroom projectors.

It's an innovative product that comes a five year UK hardware and light source warranty, meaning that the initial investment is a long term one that doesn't compromise on quality. Considering that 79 per cent of IT technicians prefer lamp free projectors over lamp based equivalents, it's also one that should put smart back in the classroom.